By: Shannon Abulnasr
In Part 1, I discussed planning and preparing for life changes. I focused on doing what works for you, how to approach life changes, overcoming all-or-nothing thinking, not letting fear of change prevent you from moving forward, reducing fear of change, and facing fears of inadequacy and self-doubt.
This part will go a step further to identify ways we put pressure on ourselves, self-sabotage, and how to avoid burnouts as a new Muslim.
Don't Be Your Own Worst Enemy
“I will never be able to do that!” - Do you ever find yourself saying that?
This is the self-sabotaging enemy within yourself. Don't be your own worst enemy. There are tons of people out there that love to criticize others, so don't add yourself to that list!
Everyone tends to think negative about themselves and their actions at some point or another. It is normal – BUT don't make it a habit, and don't let it put a barrier between you and goals that will dramatically improve your life.
You may not even recognize that you are doing it, so learn to analyze your thoughts and behaviors in relation to each other. If you allow yourself to feel inadequate, you will use it as an excuse for not reaching your goals. It is a vicious self-sabotaging circle that you don't want to get into. You want to grow as a new Muslim, not fall back into the life you had before.
1- Procrastination: Knowing you have something to do, but keep putting it off for “later”, never finishing things you start, or feeling unmotivated, even when the opportunity presents itself.
2- Unfulfilled Dreams: Dreaming, but never putting things in action.
3- Worry: Fear that others will look down on you or disapprove, doubting your abilities, feeling anxious or suffering from unexplained depression or panic attacks when doing something new, and over-thinking about things that don't matter.
4- Anger: Communicating in an aggressive manner instead of being assertive while not trying to change this feeling, which can also affect relationships with your family and family harboring resentment from both sides.
5- Feelings of Worthlessness or Inadequacy: Taking unfair or misguided criticism too personally, and letting others make you feel less or not worthy.
You may hold one, or two, or even all of the traits above, but if you really want to succeed in anything, you must learn to overcome this mentality.
Negative thinking and talk will only destroy whatever self-esteem, and self-confidence you have. Anytime you fail at something, or take longer to do something, you convince yourself that it isn't something that you are cut out for.
Satan is the master at these mind games, so don't let him take over. If you allow Satan to take control, you will find yourself discouraged, frustrated, and angry with yourself, and everyone around you. You end up trapping yourself.
How to Avoid this Trap?
Psychoanalyze yourself! It is easier than you think.
Ask yourself a few questions. Do you have any practices that you are yet to implement, but desire to? What type of things do you find yourself failing to do without valid reasons?
Are there only certain things that you procrastinate about?
Do you find yourself unmotivated to do something that you should want to be doing?
Do you get upset easily and find it affecting relationships with others around you?
What situations do you find that others get easily frustrated or upset with you about?
If you can identify these things and think at a deeper level about the cause and effect for each thing, you can pull yourself out of the self-sabotaging rut you find yourself in.
Anytime you have a negative thought, write it down, and then think about why it is a negative feeling you are having. What makes you think this way? Is it directly related to a situation or environment, or certain people that trigger it? Is there any validity in your feelings, or are you exaggerating things to convince yourself they are valid reasons? Be real with yourself. Most things are exaggerated by our imagination.
For example - maybe you have the desire to wear hijab, and have the means to do so, but for some reason you are not doing it. Say you have been Muslim for years, and still don't wear hijab. Why don't you wear it? Do you worry about what others will think, and how they will react, so much that you don't even try?
Are there any indicators that people around you would react badly? If not, then you are in the self-sabotaging cycle of fear. Many people fear that if they put on hijab, people will stare at them excessively, or maybe even physically attack them.
Some new Muslim women have told me that they were in this rut, and finally, one day.... they just took that leap, and started wearing it. They expressed that all their fears were for nothing, and regretted the fact they didn't try it sooner.
You simply never know, if you don't try. If you have a bad experience, you can always postpone things until you are feeling stronger to deal with the outcomes. Take action to see if your fears are warranted or not, because most likely they are not. More often than not, we just let our imaginations and fears get the best of us.
Pressure vs. Performance
When people experience a moderate level of pressure, they are more likely to follow through and achieve their goals.
If there is little pressure, there is less motivation, and if there is too much pressure, they fail, so it is best to push yourself moderately and steadily, to grow and implement a more Islamic lifestyle.
It is up to you, not anyone else, so don’t slack around, but don’t over-do things either, otherwise you may end up in a burnout. Don’t expect to be perfect overnight.
Are You Burning Out?
Amanda wakes up late for fajr, and is dreading her day because she is feeling frustrated that she missed it, and still has 4 more prayers to do during the day and feels like it is more of a chore instead of something that she takes comfort and pleasure in doing.
She goes throughout her day snapping at others about anything they say, and assumes it has something to do with her being a Muslim, even when it has nothing to do with it. Amanda is on the verge of a burnout. Do you relate to her?
Burnouts will creep up on you if you don’t watch out. It happens when you become so overly obsessed with something that you overwork yourself and your mind. You find yourself losing motivation and enthusiasm quickly to the point you stop everything.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:
"Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately... Always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course, whereby you will reach your target (of Paradise)." (Bukhari, 6464)
Signs of a burnout include feeling mentally and physically drained, negative thoughts, lack of sympathy, easily irritated about small things, feeling misunderstood or unappreciated, low self-esteem, feeling overwhelmed by pressure, dissatisfaction with your goals and accomplishments, feeling inadequate. If you have more of these symptoms than what you don’t have, then you are on the verge of a burnout.
How to Avoid a Burnout?
Don’t do what most people do and stop everything! This can cause more damage to your situation than you think. Focus on things which will have a deeper impact that will last.
Remind Yourself of Your Purpose
By rediscovering your purpose (to worship Allah and live the best life you can according to Islam), you will reestablish yourself. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves.
Look at the long-term impact on things you need to do to live as a Muslim and have a good life. If you stop praying, would that bring you closer to Allah?
Remember that when you are walking towards Allah, He comes running to you! If you avoid Him, He will avoid you.
Do you feel like you are in an endless rut that is boring and irritates you, that is just repeated day in and day out without meaning?
Look at what is expected of you (short-term and long-term) and determine where you are in that process. Are you trying to do too much, or are you doing too little? Is there something that you need help with?
If people are putting a lot of pressure on you for things, talk to them and tell them that you are starting to feel burned out and to go easy on you, because you don’t want to give up, but can’t handle the pace you are moving at yet. If they don’t stop putting pressure on you, then try to avoid being around such people until you are in a better mindset.
Don’t worry about all the sunnahs if you are not even able to do the fard (obligatory) things. Focus on the fard until you feel stable in it, and ready to take on more.
You may wonder: “How can I support others when I’m struggling myself?”
While it seems bizarre, it can work wonders on revitalizing your spirit. You may be struggling with one aspect of living as a Muslim, but you may be strong in another that someone else is weak in. Not only is supporting them meaningful, but you will feel more positive and motivated to do better yourself in other things.
Manage Time and Stress Better
Creating a routine can do amazing things to bring stability and ease pressure. If you plan things out, you can organize your actions, thoughts, and will slowly find yourself feeling good, instead of feeling behind in your progress.
Manage your time efficiently to give you time during the day to reflect about how your day is and if you are using your time to grow your faith effectively. We tend to get so overwhelmed in things that need to be done that we forget about Allah.
A common example is that many people have the mindset that they will schedule their day, and try to wedge prayers in here and there if time permits, and if they can’t, then “oh well”. Try to plan your schedule around your prayers instead and you will find it easier to accomplish performing your prayers without pressure.
Identify what stresses you out every day. Write it in a journal if you need to. At the end of the day, review it, and learn how you can either change those things, delegate stressful tasks, or if they can be eliminated all-together. Time management is a huge stress reliever. If you can manage your time, then you can manage your stress.
(Continue reading parts 1, 3 and 4 of the series linked below)